Tag Archives: GE

Why connect to the cloud with the Atmel | SMART SAM W25?

The “thing” of IoT does not have to necessarily be tiny. 

The Atmel | SMART SAM W25 is, in fact, a module — a “SmartConnect Module.” As far as I am concerned, I like SmartConnect designation and I think it could be used to describe any IoT edge device. The device is “smart” as it includes a processing unit, which in this case is an ARM Cortex-M0-based SAMD21G, and “connect” reminds the Internet part of the IoT definition. Meanwhile, the ATWINC1500 SoC supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n allowing seamless connection to the cloud.

What should we expect from an IoT edge device? It should be characterized by both low cost and power! This IoT system is probably implemented multiple times, either in a factory (industrial) or in a house (home automation), and the cost should be as low as possible to enable large dissemination. I don’t know the SAMD21G ASP, but I notice that it’s based on the smallest MCU core of the ARM Cortex-M family, so the cost should be minimal (my guess). Atmel claims the W25 module to be “fully-integrated single-source MCU + IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution providing battery powered endpoints lasting years”… sounds like ultra low-power, doesn’t it?

Atmel claims the W25 module to be “Fully-integrated single-source MCU + IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution providing battery powered endpoints lasting years”…sounds like being ultra low-power, isn’t it

The “thing” of IoT does not necessarily have to be tiny. We can see in the above example that interconnected things within the industrial world can be as large as these wind turbines (courtesy of GE). To maximize efficiency in power generation and distribution, the company has connected these edge devices to the cloud where the software analytics allow wind farm operators to optimize the performance of the turbines, based on environmental conditions. According with GE, “Raising the turbines’ efficiency can increase the wind farm’s annual energy output by up to 5%, which translates in a 20% increase in profitability.” Wind turbines are good for the planet as they allow avoiding burning fossil energy. IoT devices implementation allows wind farm operators to increase their profitability and to build sustainable business. In the end, thanks to Industrial Internet of Thing (IIoT), we all benefit from less air pollution and more affordable power!

ATSAMW25 Block-DiagramThe ATWINC1500 is a low-power Systems-on-Chip (SoC) that brings Wi-Fi connectivity to any embedded design. In the example above, this SoC is part of a certified module, the ATSAMW25, for embedded designers seeking to integrate Wi-Fi into their system. If we look at the key features list:

  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (1×1) for up to 72 Mbps
  • Integrated PA and T/R switch
  • Superior sensitivity and range via advanced PHY signal processing
  • Wi-Fi Direct, station mode and Soft-AP support
  • Supports IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA
  • On-chip memory management engine to reduce host load
  • 4MB internal Flash memory with OTA firmware upgrade
  • SPI, UART and I2C as host interfaces
  • TCP/IP protocol stack (client/server) sockets applications
  • Network protocols (DHCP/DNS), including secure TLS stack
  • WSC (wireless simple configuration WPS)
  • Can operate completely host-less in most applications

We can notice that host interfaces allow direct connection to device I/Os and sensors through SPI, UART, I2C and ADC interfaces and can also operate completely host-less. A costly device is then removed from the BOM which can enable economic feasibility for an IoT, or IIoT edge device.

The low-power Wi-Fi certified module is currently employed in industrial systems supporting applications, such as transportation, aviation, healthcare, energy or lighting, as well as in IoT areas like home appliances and consumer electronics. For all these use cases, certification is a must-have feature, but low-cost and ultra-low power are the economic and technical enablers.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger and one of the four founding members of the site. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on November 15, 2015.

The Opal is a countertop nugget ice maker for your home

A new ice age is upon us! The Opal lets you create a pound of crunchy nugget ice in an hour, right from home.

Contrary to what you may believe, ice is no longer just for chilling drinks, preserving meats and treating sprains. In areas like the South, it’s become a munchable snack for extremely hot summer days. Called nugget ice, this particular form of frozen H2O is soft and easy to chew, however outside of chain restaurants like Sonic and your local convenience store, it’s hard to come by. That was until now, at least.


FirstBuild — a co-creation space founded by GE and Local Motors — will let you satisfy your nugget cravings from right inside your own home with an affordable countertop maker. And while similar machines may already be on the market today, their price tag keeps them out of reach from most everyday consumers who aren’t looking to shell out upwards of two to three thousand dollars. Instead, Opal can soon be yours for a mere fraction of the cost ($499).

Having had the chance to see it firsthand at Maker Faire Bay Area, Opal boasts a sleek, aesthetically-pleasing design that will surely match the decor of any kitchen. The stainless steel device plugs into an electrical outlet and holds three pounds of ice, which is about as much as a typical refrigerator. Opal produces its first nuggets in 15 minutes, and can create a pound of ice each hour. The unit, which measures 16.5” x 10.5” x 14”, includes a crystal-clear, removable bin that easily slides out and tilts forward for access to the ice, as well as a capacitive touch interface for control. And you know what makes it even cooler (no pun intended)? It has an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4) driving its indicator light!


What’s more, the Opal can be plugged into any standard 120V outlet and doesn’t require a dedicated water line to operate. The machine works by packing together small ice crystals, forming nuggets of soft yet crunchy ice. Not only do they cool down beverages like your coffee or soda faster than conventional cubes, the air pockets in each nugget absorb the flavor of the drink as it drops in temp, leaving a chewable and tasty refreshment for those who enjoy snacking on the ice when the liquid is gone.

For those unfamiliar with the community, FirstBuild is a new model of manufacturing that challenges Makers from around the world to dream up home appliance innovations. Earlier this year, Atmel had the opportunity to sponsor its inaugural 33-hour mega hackathon that brought together more than 200 DIYers, designers and engineers at its microfactory in Louisville to mod and build sci-fi-like equipment for the smart house of tomorrow. Evident by the sheer volume of ingenuity from that weekend, the crowdsourced design of Opal is just the beginning of real IoT applications generated by the Maker community.


Want one for your kitchen? The wait is almost over, as Opal made its debut on Indiegogo on July 28th — a date that also marked the one-year anniversary of FirstBuild. Keep in mind, this isn’t the co-creation community’s first crowdfunding effort either. Back in January, the team garnered over $316,000 for its Paragon Induction Cooktop, and the nugget ice maker has well surpassed its sibling’s success. The Opal ranks ninth on Indiegogo’s top 10 list of campaigns that have raised the most funds in 24 hours, and the 13th fastest to reach the half million dollar mark.

The initial batch of units is expected to begin shipping in July 2016 — right in time to help keep cool next summer!

GE’s Brilliant Super Smoker is bringing the IoT to BBQ

What stands at 12-feet-tall, emits 300 gallons of smoke and provides a full weekend of BBQ deliciousness? 

SXSW means many different things to many different people, but one thing it means to nearly everyone is barbecue. From briskets to ribs, Austin has it all.


​For three days, SXSW attendees had the chance to see, smell, and most importantly, taste barbecued food courtesy of General Electric’s Brilliant Super Smoker. The focal point of the GE BBQ Research Center was a 12-foot-tall, custom-built interactive barbecue smoker, pit-mastered by GE’s resident scientist Lynn DeRose. The exhibit was able to capture data from the smoker and other scientific experiments during the event to track every step of the BBQ experience, while analyzing the science behind cooking and eating.

No stranger to the burgeoning Maker Movement, GE constructed its Brilliant Super Smoker from scratch using both steel and unconventional tubular laboratory glassware. The machine was equipped with a myriad of sensors and Atmel based Arduino boards (according to Mashable), tasked with continuously monitoring each of the internal functions of the smoker, such as temperature, humidity and smoke flow, as well as the ingredients inside. The intelligent system was designed to provide the BBQ pit-master with an instantaneous look at the status of the meat without ever having to open the cooker. This allows for a consistent temperature during the 18 hours, seven hours, and one hour required to cook brisket, ribs, and sausage, respectively.


The data was then visualized in real-time and displayed on a nearby screen Predix-inspired GE software — a platform for predictive maintenance created for the Industrial Internet.

GE’s goal of redefining the BBQ scene doesn’t end with smoking either. In fact, the company’s researchers also detailed the process of creating effective sauce by partnering with local ice cream parlor Spun to scientifically whip up a BBQ-flavored frozen treat. Beyond that, tent visitors even had the chance to see how their brain reacted to consuming various foods like smoked sausage.

Evident by its fair share of SXSW projects throughout the years which range from a pop-up 3D printing workshop to a social media-enabled fridge, not to mention its recently-revealed FirstBuild co-creation space, GE undoubtedly finds itself smack dab in the middle of the ever-growing DIY community and the Internet of Things.

FirstBuild’s sous-vide device will help you become a master chef

Sous smart!

Who remembers the Disney Channel hit Smart House? For those who may not recall, the 1999 flick centered around a family who won a computerized house that ends up taking on a life of its own. While some of the features may have been a bit far-fetched, Disney certainly helped paint a clear picture of the kitchen of tomorrow — one in which can learn its owners’ eating habits through atmospheric sensors, as well as whip up instantaneous meals and beverages.


Now 15 years later, a Smart House-like future is finally coming to fruition. And as we’ve previously noted on Bits & Piecesthe Internet of Things is ready to cook up a storm. Helping us inch one step closer to the connected culinary experience is the Paragon Induction Cooktop, which was developed by GE’s FirstBuild subsidiary and is now officially live on Indiegogo. While smart sous-vide cooking accessories, such as the ATtiny88 powered Nomiku aren’t entirely new, the Paragon is hoping to up the game with its set of innovative devices.

For those unfamiliar with the technique, sous-vide refers to a cooking method used by a number of today’s top chefs at countless restaurants throughout the country, particularly steakhouses. Sous-vide requires those preparing a meal to seal the ingredients in plastic, then submerge them in a temperature-controlled environment, such as a heated water bath.


As its name implies, this smart cooker uses a 1,440-watt induction burner to heat water, while a Bluetooth-enabled attachment monitors the temperature. The clings are also magnetized so that they can easily affix to any piece of induction-ready cookware. What’s more, FirstBulid’s Induction Cooktop is a single burner that measures 12” in diameter and accommodates a wide-range of pots, up to 30 quarts.

Maintaining an even temperature in a pot of water isn’t always an easy task, however. That’s why the rechargeable wireless band syncs with the hotplate and transmits the temperature back to the burner via Bluetooth, adjusting the heat accordingly to ensure that the food is cooked accurately. At the moment, the probe works with just a few GE induction cooktops, though we can expect more are planned for the future.


Although it may not be equipped with built-in Wi-Fi like the latest iteration of the Nomiku, the platform does have a companion mobile app that enables users to browse a library of handy recipes. Good news home chefs, you can now easily upload and share your tasty instructions to a growing foodie community. Additionally, the apps lets its users surveil their meal remotely whether that’s walking about the house or on-the-go. Keep in mind, Paragon does have controls on the cooktop as well, meaning that the app will always be an enhancement, not a requirement to operate.

“However, sous-vide is just one of the many applications of Paragon. The precision that Paragon offers allows you to perfectly cook, simmer, poach, and fry your favorite foods in a way you probably haven’t been able to before,” the company writes. “For example, when you deep fry, you want to be able to keep the oil at the perfect temperature to avoid burning or undercooking your food. When you make candy, you have to be able to control temperature precisely to avoid burning the sugar. When you make steak, you want to be able to control the temperature to within a couple degrees to cook it to your exact specifications. Paragon allows you to do all of those things nearly effortlessly.”


This is certainly an exciting (and mouth-watering) territory at the moment, evident by a growing number of smart innovations seen at CES 2015. Currently, GE offers a line of connected ovens that enables users to start pre-heating from their mobile device, with a few others expected in the coming months. Among the connected appliances include a french door-style bottom-freezer refrigerator, a smart dishwasher, a washer and dryer, to name a few. Meanwhile, FirstBuild recently-revealed its ChillHub refrigerator that boasts two integrated USB hubs, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and an open-source app that provides seamless integration, in addition to its Micro-kitchen and connected thermometer — the same thermometer that will be paired with the Paragon Cooktop.

Whatever the future holds, one thing is certain. Your kitchen is about to get a whole heck of a lot smarter. Hungry for a Paragon Induction Cooktop of your own? Head over to its official Indiegogo page, where the project has already doubled its initial goal of $50,000 in less than 48 hours. The device that will let you sear, deep fry, poach, simmer, warm and braise with precision is priced at $149, and is expected to begin shipping in December 2015. Learn more on its official page here.